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Row fizzes over use of champagne name

Cornu's flutes are at the centre of the row over the champagne name (Cornu bakery)

A fresh dispute has erupted between France and Switzerland over the use of the label "champagne".

Producers of the famous French sparkling wine have objected to a bakery in the Swiss village of Champagne using the word in its packaging.

The Cornu bakery in Champagne in canton Vaud makes sweet and savoury biscuits and pastries under the slogan "Recette de Champagne".

But a trade association which represents French champagne growers and makers has complained about the use of the slogan on Cornu’s flutes (aperitif biscuits), which are also sold in France.

"It misrepresents the 'champagne' brand, which is protected across Europe," said Michel Gutknecht, from the Swiss information centre on champagne wine, which represents the trade association in Switzerland.

Swiss winegrowers in Champagne in canton Vaud have already been stopped from using the label "vins de champagne".

Angry

Cornu has reacted angrily to the move. "They reproach us for living in a village called Champagne," said Marc-André Cornu, who runs the family business with his brother Paul-Henri.

He said that the flutes had been sold under the champagne label since 1934 and added that there wasn’t any risk of confusing Vaud biscuits with French wine.

"In this case, I can’t see how one can accuse us of misleading consumers," said Cornu, who hopes to win the case when it goes before a court in Paris.

Gutknecht said the trade association’s main complaint was against Cornu’s subsidiary in the French city of Besançon, which makes flutes for the French market.

Repeat

But Cornu said that this was a "pretext" and that the company had already been to court on the same subject in 1991 when all flutes were made in Switzerland.

In 1991 the Cornu bakery, supported by the Swiss justice ministry, won its case. This time it will have to face the court on its own, said Cornu.

This is not the first time the Swiss village has been at the centre of a name row. In 2004 43 winemakers lost the right to use the label "vins de champagne" when a series of bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union came into effect.

An appeal is pending in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Meanwhile the winemakers have to use the "Libre-Champ" label.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss bakery Cornu, which uses the slogan "Recette de Champagne", makes a SFr10 million ($7.7 million) profit in France on its products.
In Switzerland its profit also stands at SFr10 million.
The French champagne region produces around 280 million bottles of bubbly a year.

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In brief

Cornu's flutes have been made since 1934 and have always been produced under the champagne label.

The French champagne producers trade association is objecting to the flutes being produced by a Cornu subsidiary in France.

Since 2004 winegrowers in the Swiss village of Champagne have been banned from using the "vins de champagne" label.

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